As the post last week noted I am a big fan of Andrew Marr. I have read his history books on the UK and regularly listen to him on the radio, so when I saw this book in my local library I quickly picked it up. In some ways I was surprised that he would write a book on not such a serious topic – drawing, hardly up there with his other books on history and politics, but I was still willing to give it a go. In the introduction Marr writes, “This is a short book about drawing, but really, it is a book about happiness. Whatever I am doing when I am drawing, it has some relationship to whatever people are doing when they make music, pray, dance, write. How does it relate to the “art world” though? Does it have a point, or is the point that it doesn’t? And if so, what am I doing? If you draw too, what, really are you doing?”.
Marr goes on to analyse his drawing as both hard work and the result of repetitive practice over many years but also as his space for freedom and play in his very busy life. The book is filled with his own drawings – he says with dual purpose – to prove that anyone can draw, including him, and second because he owns the copyright to his own pictures they are cheap! Marr talks about how drawing fits into the art world and how drawing is ultimately as creative as painting because even if you are drawing a scene or copying a picture, the drawing will be the result of the image you have in your mind then transmitted to your hand – so every drawing is shaped by some essence of the person who drew it. Marr also talks about the artisan mode of ‘making something’ that drawing provides and how satisfying that is. The book also discusses the physicality of drawing – the hand and eye coordination, that drawing is a two handed pursuit and particularly if you draw in nature you have to battle the elements. Marr comments in the introduction that he had finished the first draft of this book about two weeks before he had his well publicised stroke, and he talks of his frustrations about not being able to draw in the same way (his left arm was largely paralysed) and how he has had to change the way he draws – still the book is filled with an impressive number of drawings that have been done on a iPad using the app called Brushes.
All in all this is an enjoyable book and gives an insight into something that many of us do on the sidelines of our lives without even thinking about, but yet underneath can reveal a lot about who we are individually and collectively (humankind need to make things and the need for aesthetics). I had started reading the book a few days before the horrible attacks in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and these themes seem to have been even more emphasised, and that drawing is a serious topic.
I am giving this book three and a half stars.
Next week’s book is Masquerade by Kit Williams